Mark I. Gessner

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower-court ruling Tuesday that a convicted murderer should not be released into the community from the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

Mark I. Gessner petitioned the courts to be released from Riverview, where he was committed after being found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity for aggravated assault and trafficking in prison contraband in 2011, while in prison.

Gessner, 53, originally of Waldoboro, was serving a 30-year term for the murder of Melvin Henderson, a florist in Bath, in May 1994. He completed that sentence in 2016, after serving 22 years and getting credit for “good time” under rules in effect at the time of his sentencing.

Because he had been committed for the other charges in 2011 while in prison, he was transferred to Riverview in February 2016, instead of being released.

He filed a petition for release one month after he arrived, first seeking to be released into the community unsupervised, then amending his request to seek a modified release allowing him to participate in community activities, under state supervision.

The Superior Court denied his petition for release, with state officials saying that they did not support any level of release into the community, and that they didn’t know what he would do in an environment different from prison.

Gessner has been diagnosed, according to court records, with multiple mental illnesses since 1993, including reactive psychosis, depression with psychotic features, schizophrenia, auditory hallucinations and delusional ideation. State officials said he had a history of refusing medication, both in prison and at Riverview. Documents indicate he did not consider himself to be mentally ill, and in his short stay at Riverview, he had not participated in counseling recommended by his primary provider.

Gessner appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, claiming the statute governing his opportunity for release from institutional inpatient residency was unconstitutionally vague as applied to him.

The court, in a decision issued Tuesday, denied his appeal and upheld the lower court’s decision to deny his petition to be released from Riverview.

“We are not persuaded, on this record, that the statutory language is unconstitutionally vague,” the justices wrote in their decision. “The trial court’s judgment provided Gessner with an explanation of how he failed to satisfy the statutory requirements – specifically, the court found Gessner had not acknowledged his mental illness or participated meaningfully in treatment, as advised by his primary care provider, to address his explosiveness and adjust to life outside of prison. Considering Gessner’s history of mental illness and violence, and his refusal to acknowledge his mental illness or participate in treatment, the statute’s terms are not vague for purposes of addressing the individual circumstances at issue here. Gessner has not met his burden of demonstrating that the court committed obvious error.”

Keith Edwards can be contact at 621-5647 or at:

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Twitter: @kedwardskj